ORONO – To the casual observer, Mike Leconte is a soft-spoken and introspective member of the University of Maine football team.
Once he puts on his Black Bears uniform, the senior from South Portland is transformed into a powerful, hard-charging offensive guard who is among the best in the Atlantic 10.
“He’s not the kind of guy that jumps up and down and tries to draw attention to himself,” said UMaine offensive line coach John Strollo. “He’s very committed to this football program.”
Up front, where the trail to big gains is broken, there is little glory. But Leconte is content with his supplementary role as an offensive lineman.
He and his linemates know any accolades received by the Bears’ quarterback, running backs, and receivers reflect directly back to their performance.
“We tease them a lot more than they probably deserve about getting quoted in the newspaper, going to press conferences,” said Leconte, an All-Atlantic 10 second-team center last season.
“It’s not really something we cherish,” he said. “We’d much rather sit in our O-line meetings and watch us beat the crap out of D-linemen [in game films].”
Upon his arrival at UMaine, Leconte got hooked on comic books. He especially enjoys “The Incredible Hulk,” the main subject of which is Dr. Bruce Banner, who, when enraged, transforms into a wild-eyed, 700-pound green monster.
At 6-foot-31/2 and a chiseled 290 pounds Leconte – while no match for the Hulk – is a formidable foe for any Division I-AA opponent who lines up across from him.
“He takes pride in that and he works hard at it,” said UMaine coach Jack Cosgrove of Leconte’s physical condition. “Mike’s a tough, hard-nosed football player. He is, without question, the most athletic lineman that we’ve had here.”
The talented fourth-year starter relies on technique, strength, and experience rather than unleashing any unnecessary emotion that might detract from his performance.
“I don’t like to hoot and holler. I don’t like to go down the sidelines and berate or exult people,” Leconte said. “I like to lead by example, mostly by being tough, not complaining, trying to do it right, and going full speed all the time.”
Leconte has done whatever has been asked of him. After sitting out 2000 with a shoulder injury, he returned to see time at tackle, guard, and center while playing in all 12 UMaine games, starting nine.
“He’s a tough, durable player, an outstanding player,” Cosgrove said.
As a sophomore in 2002, Leconte was a fixture at left guard. Last year, with teammate Ben Lazarski out for season, he made the switch to center.
“The first thing you learn there is how to read defenses, how to read stunts. You’re basically the field general of the offensive line,” Leconte explained. “I feel a lot more comfortable at guard.”
What Leconte likes best about playing on the offensive line is the sense of cohesiveness the group enjoys.
“We can all play off each other,” he said. “In the O-line, it’s not like any other group because you’re kind of forced to be a family. The camaraderie is unlike any other position, I think.”
Linemates Mark Lehner, Lazarski, Evign Dodge, and Ryan Bird know Leconte can be counted on for hard work and intensity every day, every play.
“I think they look to him for stability and experience and he brings it,” Strollo said. “They know that no matter how good they are individually, they’re only as good as when the whole group is working together.”
Leconte has dedicated himself to the Bears’ weight training program, which has helped him go from 275 pounds to 290 since last season.
“We’ve got a great strength program,” Leconte said, lauding the efforts of coach Will Biberstein and his staff. “They were getting us up at 6 o’clock in the morning [this summer]. It was like boot camp.”
Leconte’s work ethic can be traced back to his days at South Portland High School. He was a two-way starter (guard and linebacker) for the Red Riots team that won the 1999 Class A state championship.
The sense of pride generated by South Portland’s success, including three straight Western Maine titles, was fostered by coach John Wolfgram.
“Coach Wolfgram always made us run on and off the field,” Leconte said. “He made us work hard every day for every period of practice. It’s those intangibles that I think South Portland taught me were more important than individual blocking techniques.”
Leconte, a public management major with a minor in business, is pleased to have the chance to represent his home state at UMaine. He hopes to get the opportunity to pursue football at the professional level.